One of my all-time favourite bloggers, Laura, once wrote a post about bumping into her ex-boyfriend. Although that in itself is a fairly awful situation (which she dealt with with consummate class, of course) she also spoke about how she’d spent six months dreaming of her ex after he left.
And how she managed to get him (and his new fiancée she’d found out existed within weeks of their breakup, which sounds utterly soul-crushing) out of her repeated dreams about them by quietly telling them, mid-dream, that they couldn’t be there anymore. And it worked.
Apparently, this idea is mentioned in Elizabeth Gilbert’s cheesy-but-truthful ode to heartbreak, Eat, Pray, Love. I’ve read the book many times but I don’t specifically remember that bit. Maybe because last time I read it I didn’t need to.
Well, this time, world, I do need to. It may be undignified to admit it, but I do.
I’ve dreamt about previous boyfriends repetitively, too. In every situation.
I dream that we’re back together; that we’re about to get back together; that he’s there but we’re just friends (and I’m laughing along with the group, being the cool girl, but dying inside).
I’ve dreamt that I’m with someone else, and he appears, ambiguously. I’ve dreamt that he comes back and says sorry and all is forgiven. Then there’s the one where he’s somewhere in a tent at a festival (?!) and all I have to do is find him and it will all be OK (except I always just keep missing him by a minute).
I’ve dreamt he’s in my bed and then he’s not. Particularly lovely, that one.
I’ve dreamt that I’m standing on a podium giving an inspirational TED talk about everything he and the breakup taught me and why I’m a better, more whole person now. I dreamt that we bump into each other, and I behave in a dignified, totally-over-everything fashion.
I’ve dreamt that my mother, family, friends, and everyone else tell me that I really should be over it by now, and that it wasn’t that big a deal in the first place. Not like you were engaged, for god’s sake. Aren’t you finished with all this needy shit already?
I’ve dreamt that I’m being laughed at, and pointed at, and mocked, by everyone in the room – thousands of people, including his friends and other people I know ‒ for believing that I ever meant anything to him, for thinking that he would ever stay, and for being too utterly stupid (or wilfully blind) to notice the signs that he wouldn’t.
I’ve dreamt about him (them?) and woken up feeling broken all over again; I’ve dreamt about him and felt utterly furious that he’d barged in to my brain uninvited, and wondered why he couldn’t just leave me the fuck alone.
When I’m awake, I often try to practice mindfulness, and see my thoughts for the random, but not necessarily-defining, whims that they are. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But when you’re asleep, it’s even more difficult. After all, how can you control your dreams? But I can only try, right?
So next time he appears, behind the rose-tinted, totally-twisted, stomach-wrenching spectacles you always wear in dreams, I’m going to try Laura (and Elizabeth’s?) thing.
I’m going to try and say, politely and calmly: Please can you leave now?
I don’t want you here anymore.